Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The parable of the lost sheep

Our cute little newborn sheep that got lost during the strong October storm is now over two months old.

The newborn lamb that got separated from its mother during the storm.

Because he was rejected by his mom, in fragile state, and required constant bottle-feeding, he had to be kept near our house so he could be closely monitored.

The young lamb with other lambs in the pen.

Now he's grown older and no longer require extra attention. He's with his own kind now and is doing well. He's starting to eat what the other sheep eat, but is still bottle-fed from time to time for extra supplement.

While his human 'parents' are inside the pen he would follow them until they leave the enclosure.

What's so endearing about this little guy is that he's bonded well with his foster parents. Whenever any of them goes into the sheep's pen, he immediately leaves the flock, comes running to greet them and follows them around, not leaving their side until they leave the pen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

"So they [the shepherds] went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger."    (Luke 2 : 16)

Monday, December 20, 2010

The birth of a new garden

A section of the area where the new garden will be developed. This is how it looked like after it was cleared of litter and debris.
Sometime late September of this year, Mom has identified a good spot to develop a new garden on the upper half of the farm. Framed by a row of mahogany trees on the east, a row of mango trees on the west, a portion of the fence on the south and a portion of the dirt road on the north, this space is quite shady and cool even when the sun is at its peak.

Mom started clearing the area of weeds, rocks, dead leaves, twigs, trash and other debris. This task took her several days to complete since she was all alone working on this project. After the arduous task of prepping the area finally it was ready for planting.

Then Mom picked some choice plants in the nursery and moved them to this place.The first areas to be planted are the base of the trees. The plants were positioned in between the exposed roots, which helped frame the plants, added more emphasis and texture.

A portion of the footpath that Mom created, which had to be redone to widen the path.
Next step was to plan where to lay the footpath. We haven't decided yet on what material to use for the footpath, still Mom began to put the border plants which will help demarcate the 'future' footpath within the garden.

Since I'm far away and not able to physically help, all I could do is give suggestions and advice when necessary. Like when I learned that the footpath Mom was working on was only over a foot wide, I suggested that she widen the path to give room for plant growth. Otherwise as the plants grow they'll take up more space, which could mean less space to walk on eventually.

Slowly the garden was taking shape. And then a powerful storm came...

(to be continued)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Springtime in December

Spring is the season of regeneration, of regrowth, of rebirth and renewal.

It has been two months now since the assault of a very strong storm. Our farm and garden is still reeling but signs of life and recovery are manifested all around.

Workers restoring the damaged wall.

Part of the "great" wall that was toppled down by the sheer strength of the storm's wind has now been restored and reinforced too so hopefully it would stand a better chance of surviving nature's next assault.

"Bald" Royal palms.

The row of Royal palms leading to our house are still standing but not so royal-looking at this time. Gone are their grand and stately appearance, reduced to humble submission. It should take some time before new leaves would replace their full crowns of foliage. And after they have shed all their tattered leaves they will stand in majesty again.

A Flattened landscape.

From the picture above, you can certainly guess the direction of the strong wind brought by the October storm. Although the mango trees in this picture are leaning almost parallel to the ground, they were not completely uprooted and are now growing new leaves. Eventually, new branches will sprout upright. Unfortunately majority of our mango trees did not survive.

It is time to demolish the roofless hut made mostly of bamboo. It's old anyway and it was already begging for repairs even before the storm hit. Now it's just saying "take me out of my misery". It will be replaced with a new structure, something better and sturdier.

Some plants show signs of damage while others seem untouched.

Quite puzzling are the plants in the original garden right next to our house. The Norfolk Island Pine lost most of its branches that were facing against the direction of the storm's wind. The picket fences are leaning but the palms trees seemed to be untouched.

Regenerating plants around the pond.

The vegetation around the fishpond shown above are also recovering fast. After the storm has passed the trees in the background were just bare trunks and branches reminiscent of leafless trees in the northern hemisphere during winter time. Now new leaves are quickly filling the gaps.

The Red-stemmed Thalias and the White Butterfly gingers (and that plant in between them) look like they were left unharmed. Even that small papaya tree (extreme right) survived, leaves and young fruits intact.

It's not even officially winter where I am right now but in our farm and garden, a spring-like atmosphere is in the air. What a wonderful feeling to witness regrowth and rejuvenation after the fall.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb

December is going to be another quiet month in our farm and garden while the people in charge are busy picking up the bits and pieces to restore it as close as possible to its pre-storm state. This would also mean that there would be not much to write about either. Right!

I guess I spoke too soon.

I received an early Christmas present in the form of a text message from back home. A great news!

Photo from Wikipedia. The St.Croix sheep.

Brief flashback: Several months ago our farm applied for another shot at the government's starter sheep dispersal program. They are giving out a limited set of five ewes and one ram of the St. Croix breed to every qualified applicant. This new batch of sheep were all imported from the U.S.A. After the required inspection, our farm was again selected to receive this grant. But we had to wait for several more months until the the sheep arrive from the U.S.

Fast forward to today: The good news I received from my mother says that the sheep are now in the regional breeding station and are getting acclimatized to our local climate. The target release date is early 2011. We were advised to prepare our farm and the payment for insurance.

Insurance? Well, this is another requirement before we can take the animals out of the breeding station. Just like the case with our previous livestock grants, we need to have them insured just in case something goes wrong. But unlike before where the insurance was relatively cheap because the animals were already bred locally, this time it will cost us a hefty sum since they are coming from another country. I guess its time to tighten my belt even more, which unfortunately is already very tight. Ouch!

And why is it a great news? Considering that the amount required to insure all six sheep costs almost the same as buying a single pure-bred mature St. Croix from a local breeder, then that's quite a bargain. Still, the initial cash I have to come up with for the six sheep would be around PH₱54,000.00 (± US$1,260.00). Some may say that that is cheap, but to an ordinary folk (like me) that is a LOT of money. And it must be paid in full, not installment.

So why is it a great news again? Because not everyone who applies for the grant gets approved. In fact, because of the limited number of livestock the government can give out, very very few applicants are chosen. It would be unwise not to accept a rare privilege such as this.

So while my belt is already too tight due to the recent setbacks (read this and that), I have to tighten it more by one notch. Financially I'm already hurting, so I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It never rains but it pours

It's been a month since my last blog entry. There was not much to report for November since the farm and garden is still staggering from the lingering effects of a couple of wicked weather disturbances that visited our area.

After a devastating storm last October, a week-long and non-stop heavy rain poured down during the first few days of November.

The constant rain was not the result of any storm. It was simply due to a weather phenomenon called Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It is not an unusual weather occurrence, what's unusual was the amount of rain it brought down this time. It flooded much of the low-lying areas of the northeastern part of the country.

The water in the picture is not a river but a flood submerging large swath of farmlands. This was the view from our farm of the town down below.

The rivers swelled and overflowed their banks due to excessive amount of water coming down from the surrounding mountains. As a result, it drowned farmlands and other low-lying areas. Our farm and garden sits on an elevated section of a valley so we were not directly affected by the huge flood even though we have a major river as a next door neighbor.

Indirectly, the flood affected us too. The carpenters we hired to build a new shelter for the sheep were unable to come because their homes were submerged by the flood and so had to attend to their own needs first. As a result our poor sheep were exposed to the elements the whole time the sky was weeping and wailing.

The young Boer/Kalahari Red buck hybrid (right) bought 4 months ago died of pneumonia along with seven other goats.

The sheep, however, are resilient creatures. They were able to survive nature's direct assault. I wish I could say the same for our goats. Eight goats including the young male Boer I asked my parents to buy died of pneumonia. The continuous wet weather, high temperature, high humidity and cramped living conditions may have contributed to their untimely demise.

It is now early December but the strong rain still keeps coming and going, a very sharp contrast from just a year ago.

The farm is still healing from the deep wounds inflicted by the October cyclone. With so many things to do and so few workers (no budget to hire more), the farm is just barely crawling towards normalcy. It's been over a month now since the storm and yet there is still no electricity. They're relying on a 4 Hp. generator which we had to buy because of this long and continuous power outage. It is only used a few hours in the evening and switched off before bedtime to conserve on fuel.

On the brighter side, Mom said it's like spring in the farm, the surviving leafless trees are sprouting new leaves.